Charley Walters: MLB wants the Saints to be a Twins’ affiliate

The St. Paul Saints could be closer to becoming the Triple-A franchise of the Minnesota Twins.

Major League Baseball’s working agreement with Minor League Baseball expires on Sept. 30. People who know say MLB, for geographical reasons, wants St. Paul to affiliate with the Twins.

The main hurdle, however, would be finding a way for a deal with Saints primary owners Mike Veeck and Marv Goldklang.

The Saints, who are by far the most successful of some 100 independent league teams, are worth an estimated $25 million. It’s unclear whether Veeck and Goldklang would be willing to sell the franchise outright to the Twins or seek a working agreement.

Rochester (N.Y.) has been the Twins’ Triple-A club the past 18 years but could end up as the affiliate of the Washington Nationals, whose AAA club has been across the country in Fresno, Calif. MLB, for financial reasons, wants minor league teams to realign regionally.

The Twins have been especially pleased with how well St. Paul has housed their major league taxi squad during the coronavirus pandemic.

Affiliating with the Twins would require expanding seating by about 3,000 at CHS Field, which has a 7,210 capacity.

If the Twins and St. Paul were not able to work out a partnership, there’s buzz that Sioux Falls, S.D., home of the independent league Canaries, could expand its stadium seating (now 4,462) and try for a Triple-A affiliation with the Twins. But that’s unlikely.

The Danielle Hunter saga is worth special scrutiny.

The Vikings’ celebrated pass rusher, out for at least two more games due to a reported neck issue, can’t be thrilled about being the 15th highest-paid defensive end in the NFL, despite a five-year contract averaging $14.4 a season.

It’s become evident that the Vikings will have to address Hunter’s contract, which runs through 2023.

Not everyone is convinced that Hunter’s absence from the field is due entirely to a neck injury. Should the Vikings get off to a poor start, say 0-3, and decide it’s time to rebuild, some people wonder whether the team would dare put Hunter up for bids for a trade, seeking draft picks, rather than pay for a new contract.

Trading Hunter, 25, who had 14½ sacks each of the previous two seasons, would require at least two No. 1 draft picks and a second-round pick. If it were to come to that, Miami and Denver would seem likely prospects.

The real number in Dalvin Cook’s new five-year, $63 million contract is the $23 million the running back is guaranteed.

Perusing the Gophers’ Big Ten football schedule released Saturday, it looks like a 6-2 record for Minnesota, with losses to Michigan and Wisconsin.

The Gophers athletic department, claiming to save $2 million by dropping men’s tennis, men’s track and field and men’s gymnastics next school year, will actually make more than $4 million. That’s because tennis has an endowed scholarship fund of $1.147 million, track and field $1.998 million and gymnastics $420,870. Cash available for the three sports totals $698,624.

Eden Prairie senior wideout Cade Kramer, brother of Gophers redshirt freshman QB Cole Kramer, has committed to Minnesota-Duluth.

Minneapolis South senior point guard Jade Hill, sister of former South point guard star Tayler Hill, the former WNBA first-round draft pick, has committed to the University of St. Thomas.

If favored Tampa Bay wins the Stanley Cup with Ryan McDonagh, Cretin and Cretin-Derham Hall will have three alumni who played in world championship competition. The others: Paul Molitor with Toronto in the 1993 World Series and Matt Birk with Baltimore in the 2013 Super Bowl, both champions.

Former Raiders-Gophers star Daniel Oturu this week returns to Santa Barbara, Calif., where this summer he worked out for 10 weeks with former Apple Valley-Duke star guard Tre Jones. The 6-10 Oturu is distinctly stronger and more mobile after the strength workouts. projects Oturu going No. 28 overall to the L.A. Lakers in the Nov. 18 NBA draft.

It’s a $3 million home purchase in Edina for ex-Wild winger Jason Zucker, 28, who just completed the second season of a $27.5 million contract with the Penguins, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports.

Zucker’s house is near Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk’s $2.8 million home. Also in Edina, the Wild’s Jared Spurgeon, who could be the Wild’s new captain, bought a house for $4.3 million last year.

Osceola’s Charlie Danielson, 26, in pursuit of the PGA Tour after a fifth left knee surgery (this one a donor cartilage transplant) three months ago, hopes to resume hitting balls in December or next spring, then return to pro competition.

“I’m trying to stay patient and get through this time and hopefully get back on the course,” he said.

Danielson works with Brent Snyder, the local pro from Hudson, Wis. Snyder, by the way, the other day hit a 335-yard drive and a 145-yard nine-iron for a double-eagle at Indian Hills’ 480-yard 18th hole. Odds of making a golf albatross: one in six million.

Snyder, 40, playing in this weekend’s TapeMark tournament at Southview Country Club, is in the hunt for Minnesota Golf Association Player of the Year, an honor he won in 2016. The player of the year will be awarded a spot in next July’s PGA Tour 3M Open tournament at the TPC in Blaine.

That was 13-year-old Sam Udovich, from Mendota Heights making six birdies en route to a five-under-par 66 in the first round of the TapeMark.

The drivable 323-yard, par-four 13th hole at the Quarry at Giants Ridge has made Golf Digest’s new “Best 18 holes in America Since 2000” list.

Nice year: Troy Merritt from Spring Lake Park, who made the cut in the U.S. Open, ended up No. 74 in FedEx Cup points and earned $1.4 million on the PGA Tour this season.

Tyler Koivisto, the 2011 Dassel-Cokato grad who earned $32,000 euros the other day by winning the Northern Ireland Open and is playing in the Portugal Open this weekend, will play in this week’s Irish Open at Galgorm Castle. Koivisto, 27, has a decent chance to earn 2021 European Tour playing rights.

Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino, in his eighth season at Minnesota, on Tuesday morning will address the Twin Cities Dunkers via Zoom.

A private autograph session by the Vikings’ famed Purple People Eaters — Alan Page, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller and Gary Larsen — takes place online this week. Memorabilia prices for signed items range from $49.99 to $199.99.

The Twins have dropped to 18-1 to win the World Series, behind the Dodgers, Rays, Yankees, White Sox, Padres, Braves, Athletics and Astros, according to

Meanwhile, the Vikings are 28-1 to win the Super Bowl, behind a dozen teams, including favored Kansas City.

A list of some of legendary St. John’s football coach John Gagliardi’s memorable quotes are being carved into wood products for sale by granddaughter Rachel. Among them: “Eliminate the unnecessary.”

A new sports/entertainment company, OWNER, operated by Fallon advertising heavyweight John King and Tom Garrity, the commissioner of the U.S. Hockey League, is behind the P.J. Fleck Red’s Savoy pizza TV commercials.

Sartell lefty David Deminsky, a 44th-round Twins draft pick in 2010, struck out 21 while throwing 154 pitches over 11 innings, but his team lost 1-0 to Bluffton in the Minnesota Class C town team tournament the other day. Subsequently, he signed with Fargo-Moorhead of the American Association.

Mike Evgen, the former International Boxing Organization junior welterweight world champion, and Linda Wojcik have the Rice Street Old School Boxing Gym on St. Paul’s Eastside busy with fighters ages 9 through 62 working out regularly. Coaches include notables Matt Vanda and Danny Morgan. Boxers are careful to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.

Any future Rocky Balboas?

“Not yet — the majority of kids are pretty green,” Evgen said. “But all are welcome, and we couldn’t be happier.”

The St. Paul Central “C” Club, due to COVID-19, has postponed its annual awards banquet for the first time in 102 years.

Brad Hand from Chaska is the Cleveland Indians’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award that represents character on and off the field. Hand is 12 for 12 in saves this season. Nelson Cruz is the Twins’ Clemente nominee.

Don’t print that

Bloomington Jefferson grad Brian Dutcher, son of former Gophers men’s basketball coach Jim Dutcher, the other day agreed to a $7.9 million, six-year San Diego State men’s basketball coaching contract. The deal includes a $6.9 million buyout if Dutcher, 60, were to leave, but the buyout is just $1 million if he were to take the University of Minnesota job, the San Diego Union-Tribune points out.

Lou Holtz, remember, when he coached Gophers football, contended that he would only leave Minnesota if Notre Dame was interested, which it was.

Speaking of the Irish, there’s talk that Big Ten men’s hockey, depending on the status of COVID-19, could end up starting conference play at Notre Dame for regional travel purposes.

Minnesota is the ninth-best men’s basketball coaching job in the Big Ten, according to rankings by Yahoo!sports. The best: Indiana. The worst, Rutgers and Penn State.

In the previous eight games before Saturday against the Cubs, 90 percent of Twins runs were due to home runs (26 out of 29).

In 533 games with the Twins, Miguel Sano has hit 130 home runs and struck out 818 times. Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, in 995 games with the Twins through 1964, hit 272 homers and struck out 806 times.

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who dazzled the Twins with eight shutout innings and 10 strikeouts in Friday night’s 1-0 victory in Chicago, is the son of John Hendricks, the former Kellogg High School golfer from Roseville.

ESPN’s American League Cy Young Award Predictor now lists ex-Twin Liam Hendriks of the Athletics as No. 2 behind Cleveland’s Shane Bieber. Another ex-Twin, Lance Lynn of the Rangers, is ranked No. 5 on the list. The Twins’ Kenta Maeda is No. 9.

Preferred Gophers men’s basketball season ticket holders this year again are required to pay $400 besides the price of tickets. It was to be $600 for some Gophers football season ticket holders had fans been allowed this season.

Don’t be surprised if Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon is named the team’s new captain, succeeding departed Mikko Koivu.

The way it looks now, the Twins will play the surging Yankees in New York in the first round of the AL playoffs.

Rashod Bateman, who left the Gophers to prepare for next spring’s NFL draft but now wants to return, would be college football’s 15th best player, according to ESPN, which rates him the second-best wideout for the draft.

Bateman, though, would be gambling against injury that could affect his draft status by returning to the Gophers. The same if he doesn’t have a great season.

Gophers QB Tanner Morgan is rated the 29th best college player by ESPN.

Among NHL teams reducing payroll due to COVID-19, the Wild have cut salaries for employees making $150,000 or more by 20 percent, the Sporting News reports.

Football people who should know say that if the University of St. Thomas, which finished 7-1 last year in the MIAC, played in the Division I Pioneer Football League last season, the Tommies would probably have a .500 season. St. Thomas is scheduled to join the conference in 2021.

Will new Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, the ex-Timberwolves coach who has the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, try to trade with the Wolves for their No. 1 overall pick?

Adrian Peterson, 35, who at one juncture had a seven-year deal for $100 million with the Vikings, is playing for the Lions this season for $1.05 million.

The Vikings signing center Brett Jones a week before the start of the regular season probably cost Jake Lacina, the former Cretin-Derham Hall star, an $8,400 per week job on the practice squad.

Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Housley, 56, from South St. Paul has two years remaining on his Arizona Coyotes contract as head of the team’s defense.

Ex-Twins fireballer Brusdar Graterol, 22, traded to the Dodgers for Kenta Maeda, 32, is 0-2 with a 3.10 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings.

Maeda, 32, who has become the Twins’ ace, is 5-1 (2.52 ERA) with 71 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings.

Nick Anderson, 30, the former St. Cloud State pitcher from Brainerd, has struck out 24 in 14 innings of relief for Tampa Bay and for his career has fanned 134 in 79 innings.

It didn’t take long for Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson to get an endorsement deal. It’s with Swiss watchmaker Angelus.

Minneapolis-based Jostens produced the Super Bowl LIV championship rings for the Kansas City Chiefs. The yellow-gold rings include 182 diamonds and 36 rubies. Limited edition rings are available to Chiefs fans for only $12,500.


NBC Sports NFL analyst Peter King on last week’s Vikings loss to the Packers: “Aaron Rodgers put up 43 points at Minnesota … the Pack owned the Vikes.”


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